The concept of fasting is definitely not new; its benefits backed by scientific studies have been around since the 1940’s. However, over the past couple of years the popularity of fasting has had somewhat of a resurgence. It’s something I have experimented with over the last couple of years with quite positive results.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, reduce blood sugar levels and also reduce insulin resistance. These are all important factors relating to effective weight loss. It is also suggested that fasting optimises insulin, human growth hormone (HGH) and norepinephrine (noradrenalin), key hormones involved in the fat-burning process.
The reason as to why intermittent fasting is so effective at burning fat has a lot to do with insulin. Insulin is primarily a fat-storing hormone. It inhibits the breakdown of fat cells and stimulates the creation of body fat. Insulin tells the body to stop burning its fat stores and instead, absorb some of the fatty acids and glucose in the blood and turn them into more fat. Every time you eat, insulin is released. Intermittent fasting helps to keep your insulin levels low, forcing your body to use its stored body fat for fuel. Apart from helping you to lose weight, keeping your insulin levels low and steady can also help you to avoid chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
One of the biggest myths and misconceptions touted by the food industry over the years is that we need to eat often in order to lose weight. Studies now prove this information to be incorrect. Of course it makes sense that the giant food companies want us to eat more, not less. How do they benefit from us eating less? They don’t. There have been numerous examples over the years of the food industry influencing scientific research. Can we really trust them? After all, it’s all about maintaining their profits, not your health.
When it comes to fat burning, insulin is the key. Keeping this hormone under control is the real secret to allowing your body to effectively burn fat, and the best process in which to achieve this is through intermittent fasting.
Our ancient ancestors never ate as much or as often as we do. They went from periods of abundance to times when they had no food at all. Humans evolved and thrived on an irregular meal schedule long before modern food preservation made regular meals possible.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you are actually fasting every day. If the last thing you ate was at 9 p. m. and you eat breakfast at 8 a.m. the next morning, you have just fasted for 11 hours. The idea here is to extend that fast so as to optimize your fat-burning hormones. If you find it difficult to skip breakfast in the morning, then another approach would be to ensure the last thing you eat at night is as early as possible.
There are many different options with fasting. You can fast for an entire day once or twice a week, or you may wish to follow my practice and stick to eating between noon and 8 p.m. Invariably, you will be ingesting fewer calories by shortening the window in which you eat, another reason why a lot of people lose weight through intermittent fasting.
If however, you find it difficult to skip breakfast and you want to try the fast, a great tactic is to gradually extend the time in which you are fasting. For example if you normally eat breakfast at 7 a. m., then perhaps wait until 8 or 9 to eat; then keep moving your meal forward until you are having your first meal at noon.
An example of incorporating intermittent fasting into your day is eating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. or even 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. How you actually structure the eight hours in which you eat is totally up to you. What really matters is that it needs to revolve around your own schedule and lifestyle.
A lot of people who want to lose weight and become healthier are actually standing in the way of their own success. Why would anyone want to prevent themselves from achieving the results they desire? It all has to do with how we see ourselves.
In his talks, neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza reveals that in order to change our circumstances, we literally have to become somebody else. We can only be, do and have what we want based on how we see ourselves. If you see yourself as an overweight person who struggles with their weight, then it’s no surprise that no matter what you do, you will always be an overweight person who struggles with their weight!
So how do we sabotage ourselves?
We make excuses and we procrastinate. Do you make the following excuses or are guilty of indulging in the following behaviours:
So what’s the difference between someone who always seems to struggle with their weight and someone who seems to effortlessly achieve their goals? The person who achieves their goals sees themselves as someone who can lose the weight and change their life. They don’t make excuses. They get up earlier, they manage their time better, they make time for exercise, they take responsibility for their lives. They do the things that they need to do to get results, but more importantly, they manage their thoughts and the way they feel. They literally see and feel their success. They do the things that they need to do because they already see themselves as they wish to be. There’s no resistance, there’s no self-sabotaging. They know that they deserve success and deserve to enjoy that success. They are also gentle on themselves. They know that changing their life is a process and so they celebrate their successes and learn from their failures.
If you can see yourself as a healthy person with a beautiful body then you will start to behave like a healthy person who has a beautiful body. But it must start in your mind first!
So how can you change yourself on the inside so that you can start to make changes on the outside?
The first thing that you need to do is closely look at your excuses and start to find solutions. You also need to be more conscious of your self-talk and how you speak with others about yourself.
No time to eat well? How about you mange your time better? Can you get up a bit earlier? Can you go to bed a bit earlier? Can you spend less time watching TV or scrolling through your social media feeds? Can you spend a little time preparing your meals for the following day or the following week? Can you shop more efficiently at the supermarket? Can you organise yourself better?
Can you stop telling people how dieting is so hard and how much you dislike your body?
Can you start to graciously accept compliments?
Can you start a healthy eating plan and exercise regime, no matter what the activity may be?
Can you start to act and feel as if you already have the kind of body you want? (This will take some time and effort so be patient!)
Can you stop comparing yourself to others?
Can you accept the fact that even though diets have never worked for you in the past, there exists a way of eating that your body will respond to?
Can you start to enjoy the journey and not obsess over your results?
Can you learn to detach from those results?
Can you ask yourself why you want to lose weight and use that answer as a powerful motivator?
Can you stop criticising yourself and start to view your goal as a process?
Can you be more patient and focus on your daily activities?
Can you learn from your mistakes and failures and just keep moving forward?
Eating well and exercising is a big piece of the weight loss puzzle, however, there are a lot of people who seem to be doing all the right things but for very little reward. Remember that unless you can see and feel your results right now, you will always be fighting an uphill battle that will only serve to cause you much frustration!
I highly recommend that you watch this short interview with Dr. Joe Dispenza on why we self-sabotage: www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=gmdpdokIdYU
Coffee, especially the organic variety, is a great source of antioxidants. In moderation (1-2 cups per day), the phytonutrients found in coffee can help your body to regulate fat metabolism, improve its regulation of insulin and glucose, and reduce its tendency towards fat storage. Taken before exercise, coffee can increase your exercise performance and output, as well as increase your focus and mental clarity. Too much coffee, on the other hand, can overstimulate your brain and adrenal glands, revving up your sympathetic nervous system and creating an autonomic imbalance. This imbalance results in an increase in your body’s levels of cortisol – a stress hormone that reduces fat burning and increases fat storage, especially around the abdomen.
Just one average-sized latte can contain as many as 168 calories, so you can see how drinking just a few coffees a day can add significant calories to your diet. In order to minimise the damage, always choose the smallest available option, choose skim milk over full-fat milk, or even better, choose a dairy alternative such as almond or macadamia milk, and always drink your coffee without any sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you typically add more than one teaspoon of sugar to your coffee, you can gradually reduce the amount of sugar you use by half a teaspoon each day. Your tastebuds WILL adjust to it. Also, don’t be tempted to use any artificial sweeteners such as Equal or NutraSweet. The aspartame found in artificial sweeteners messes with your hormones and has been shown to increase cravings for sugar, as well as contribute to an increase in weight gain.
Alternatively, try using a natural sweetener such as stevia or xylitol. Stevia is a plant-based sugar substitute that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It contains zero calories and won’t spike your blood sugar the way that other sweeteners do. Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that looks and tastes just like sugar, minus the harmful effects. It has a low glycemic index (GI) of 7 and contains 40% less calories than sugar.
If you normally drink black tea instead of coffee, and you have it with milk and/or sugar, then the above rules that apply to coffee also apply to tea.
You can also drink unlimited amounts of herbal tea. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants. They can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals are known to speed up the ageing process and can lead to all sorts of diseases.
Studies have found that a type of catechin prevalent in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), can actually help increase resting metabolism and stimulate fat burning. This is why you often find green tea extract in many fat-burning supplements.
White tea contains even more cell-protecting antioxidants than green tea (and less caffeine), but there are fewer studies to support its role in fat burning.
Be sure to steer clear of all soft-drinks/sodas and fruit juices, especially the diet varieties, as they contain too much sugar and synthetic chemicals.
People who drink alcohol in moderation tend to be healthier than those who are teetotallers, although drinking the wrong type of alcohol or using high-calorie mixers won’t exactly help your weight loss efforts. It isn’t just the excess calories that contribute to unwanted weight gain, it’s also the poor food choices that are often made after having a few drinks. In order to still be able to enjoy alcohol, be sure to stick with the following recommendations:
Just be aware that every drink you have is adding extra calories to your diet. Alternatively, you can remove or reduce the carbohydrate component of your dinner in order to enjoy a drink or two without affecting your calorie intake too much.
*Stevia liquid concentrate can be found at most heath-food stores.
As technology advances and our lives become seemingly easier, depression and anxiety have become more prevalent than ever. More and more people feel unsatisfied in their jobs and unhappy in their relationships. We want bigger homes, nicer cars, slimmer bodies and more money. No matter what we have, there always seems to be more that we want in the hope that it will enable us to feel better. As a consumerist society, happiness will always elude us.
Globally, depression is growing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20% every year.
There are many factors that can contribute to our unhappiness. Unemployment, divorce, gender-related issues, old age, failing finances and poor health can all contribute to an unhappy life. Does this mean that circumstances beyond our control are preventing us from living a happy and satisfying life? Definitely not! Science has proven that what we do and how we think on a daily basis can have a significant impact on our happiness levels.
About six months ago, I started writing a book which so far has a working title called "THE HAPPINESS PROJECT". The idea for the book came about one day when I was writing my own list of things that I felt I needed to do on a regular basis to help keep myself positive and optimistic. It had then occurred to me that I needed to share these twenty-one principles with others in the hope that it would also help others cope with whatever mental health issues or mood disorders they were faced with.
Most of our problems tend to stem from our negative thoughts about the present, past and future, as well as certain lifestyle factors. Eating too many processed foods, spending too much time indoors, failing to nurture close relationships, allowing stress to accumulate and not making enough time for ourselves, are just some of the things that can contribute to our increased feelings of depression and anxiety.
There's plenty that we can do that doesn't involve prescription medication or spending hours on a psychologist's couch. If my book can help even just ONE person to feel happier and more optimistic, then I'm happy to say that I've achieved my goal in making a difference.
Here's a excerpt from my new book...
We often unconsciously and unwittingly become caught up in our daily roles. Whether you’re a mother, a father, a schoolteacher or a business owner, no matter what roles we play in life, there are certain responsibilities we need to take on. If you are a mother, you are most likely the one responsible for making sure your kids don’t go to school hungry or that they have completed their homework. As an employee, there are specific responsibilities you must carry out and roles you must fulfill in order to keep your job, and therefore continue to pay your bills. For the vast majority of people, life can often be described as a boring, monotonous repeat of yesterday.
For millions of years, we evolved as a human race under the warmth and love of the sun. The Ancient Greeks understood that the sun could heal and bring vibrancy to health, which is why they used sunlight therapy, known as heliosis. These days, while the dangers of excessive sun exposure are well recognized, the benefits of safe exposure to sunlight on your health and mood are hard to ignore.
Exposure to the sun is your number one source of Vitamin D, an important vitamin needed to assist in the growth of virtually every cell of your body. It also accounts for over 90% of your vitamin D requirement. A deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to depression and a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that is more common in winter months, but also common in people who work long hours in office buildings. When we spend too much of our time indoors, under artificial lighting, we are literally depriving ourselves of the healing power of nature.
Sunlight has long been known to help cure depression and other mood disorders, such as anxiety. A study led by Gavin Lambert of the Baker Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, measured serotonin levels in the blood vessels leading directly from the brain. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter known as the ‘feel good’ chemical, is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and dreaming. Low levels of this important hormone have been linked to depression and sleep disorders, including insomnia.
In the study, samples were taken from 101 healthy men during each of the four seasons and compared with various weather factors, such as temperature, rainfall, hours of bright sunlight, and atmospheric pressure. Researchers found that regardless of the season, levels of serotonin in the brain were affected by the amount of sunlight on any given day. The levels of serotonin were higher on bright days compared to overcast or cloudy ones. In fact, the rate of serotonin production in the brain was proven to be directly related to the duration of bright sunlight. The researchers say their study shows that the prevailing amount of sunlight clearly affects serotonin levels in healthy individuals.
So how much time do you need to spend in the sun to boost your levels of vitamin D? Spending as little as 10-15 minutes in the midday sun will supply your body with about 10,000 international units of vitamin D. This is well over the recommended daily intake, however, many experts believe that these recommendations are far too low to maintain healthful levels. This is especially true during the winter period and if you are elderly and/or are dark-skinned.
Apart from helping you to feel happier, the sunshine vitamin may also protect you against many diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon.
Another benefit of spending time outside in the sunshine is the increase in your body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin, which is produced by your pineal gland, is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps combat inflammation. It is a hormone that plays a key role in the wake-sleep cycle, the chemical signal that orchestrates the transition from awake to asleep to back awake again. Your body produces melatonin at night, however, like vitamin D, it is regulated by exposure to sunlight during the day. Producing adequate melatonin is crucial to getting a good night's sleep, and getting good quality sleep is crucial to your overall sense of happiness and wellbeing.
If you have two or more of the following symptoms, your body may be low in vitamin D.
Consult with a health care professional to see if supplementing your diet with this important vitamin may be necessary.
Meditation as a pathway to healing both the body and mind, came from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism at around 1500 BCE. These days, it has become a common practice used to help combat the devastating effects of stress. In such a fast-paced world, learning to quieten our minds and relax our bodies has become a bit of a lost art.
Many people feel quite overwhelmed at the prospect of sitting still and being alone with their thoughts. We often feel the need to surround ourselves with the constant buzz of background noise or activities that take our minds off of our problems, at least that's what we think. The issue this presents is that it also cuts us off from connecting with our higher selves. Overthinking is the number one reason why we tend to experience negative emotions such as regret, sadness, fear and anxiety. We avoid the present moment, either living with past regrets or anticipating what may or may not happen in the future. Learning to embrace the present moment in silence allows us the opportunity to also fully embrace what is happening right in this moment. In reality, the present moment is the only moment that really exists. The past is gone and tomorrow never comes.
Learning to quieten your mind through the process of meditation is actually quite a simple practice. All it takes is a small amount of focus. You don't need to join a Buddhist monastery or walk around wearing a robe, unless you feel the need to. Focus on the number one grounding activity, breathing. The act of breathing is an involuntary action that we don't need to control. However, whenever you take a deep breath you immediately bring yourself back into the moment. The present moment is where all your power lies.
Sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Slowly breath in from your nose and feel the warm air travelling down deep into your diaphragm. Once your stomach has fully expanded, slowly expel the air through your mouth. Thoughts will come and go, however, always bring your attention back to your breathing. There's no need to try to fight it. As simple as this exercise sounds, many people find it quite challenging. We're so used to the constant chatter of our inner self-talk that learning to quieten our minds requires some practise. There's no need to force it or fight hard to avoid your thoughts, just focus on your breathing. If you can only do this for a few minutes then that's ok. We all need to start somewhere! Aim to increase the length of time you meditate naturally, don't force yourself to sit there for 20 minutes if it feels uncomfortable.
Closing your eyes is the best way to meditate as it removes all visual stimuli. However, you can keep your eyes open and focus on an object as well. Any object will do, it could be a candle, a flower or your tv remote control! Experiment and find a method that works for you and that feels good. Meditation is all about focusing and quietening your mind, how you achieve this is all up to you! Start with a few minutes a day and slowly build up to thirty minutes a day. The longer you can meditate, the more you will benefit from the practice. Best of luck!!
If you have already gotten into the habit of activating nuts and/or seeds yourself, you are most likely well aware of the health benefits of doing so. Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors, which as you may have guessed, prevent their proper digestion and absorption. Enzyme inhibitors act by binding to enzymes and therefore decrease and/or block their actions. The result is often a feeling of heaviness, bloating and/or discomfort. Grains and legumes also contain these enzyme inhibitors and benefit from receiving the same treatment. Grains, nuts and seeds also contain what's known as phytates. Phytates are antioxidants that bind to important minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium, and often lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Soaking nuts and seeds allows them to sprout, and as a result, reduces their levels of phytic acid while also increasing their digestibility. This process is simple. Cover the nuts or seeds with water and allow them to sprout overnight (typically about 12 hours). Cashews only need to be soaked for about 3-4 hours as they tend to go slimy if left in water for too long. Once they are drained and rinsed, transfer them onto an oven tray and allow them to slowly dehydrate in an oven set at about 50-60 degrees celsius. The process of dehydrating ensures that the nuts and seeds won't turn rancid or go mouldy. Make sure that they are completely dry and crunchy. I have some great ideas in the recipe section on how you can add some extra flavour to your activated nuts and seeds. 😋